In between flights: Airport lounge hacks for every flyer

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On my last trip, I spent several hours at Dubai Airport between flights. Tight connections leave me frazzled, so to reduce the stress of travel, I give myself plenty of time. The best place to go to while in transit is an airport lounge. Here you’ll enjoy a comfortable quiet space, dedicated work area with free Wi-Fi where you can plug in your electronic devices, enjoy unlimited quality food and drinks, read complimentary magazines and take a shower to refresh and recharge.  

Before booking your flights, I’d recommend that you narrow down your choice to the most direct route, quality of the carrier, cost, and the airport where you’ll be transiting. Check out its facilities and the airport lounges you can access.

While Singapore’s Changi Airport leads the way with the world’s best airport and a staggering array of attractions to keep transit passengers entertained – including the world’s tallest indoor waterfall – if you fly with Singapore Airlines, you’ll be eligible for a S$20 Changi transit voucher that you can use for complimentary entry into the Ambassador Lounge, which makes transiting there even better.

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Many airports though have upped the ante, offering a wide range of shopping and dining options, and while they might not offer vouchers, there are many other ways to gain access to an airport lounge.

Buy a day pass

If you don’t fly often, single-use pay as you enter an airport lounge is of great value. And often prices are negotiable – so if you’re just after a shower, you’ll often pay less. Many airports have pay-as-you-enter lounges. Plaza Premium lounges for example, are located at Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Hong Kong airports.

Premium Credit Cards

If you’re a frequent traveller, you might want to consider a premium credit card for the perks and raft of benefits offered, that may include access to airport lounges around the world, irrespective of the airline you’re flying with. The American Express Platinum card for example, provides access to 1200 lounges worldwide, though the benefits of joining should be weighed up against the annual fee.

Airline lounges

Airline lounges restrict entry to members, guests of members, frequent travellers with elite status, business and first class passengers. Some airlines though, will allow you to pay for a single entry, so long as you’re a member of their frequent flyer program. In Dubai, for example I could have entered the Emirates Business Class lounge with an economy ticket for US$100, or the First-Class lounge for US$210.

There are other ways too to get around entry restrictions. Some airlines will email you prior to departure and invite you to bid online for an upgrade. You could end up at the pointy end of the plane for a fraction of the fare, with lounge entry thrown in for free. Try with a bid of around 20 to 40% of the business class fare and you might be lucky. When my recent Garuda Indonesia flight from Bali was delayed, I didn’t mind at all. I continued to relax by snacking and reading the lounge’s magazines.

If you don’t fly often enough to have elite status, but stick to the one airline, you might consider paying to join the airline’s club. Membership of the Qantas Club for example, provides access to Qantas lounges and its partner airlines. Whether this is a good deal, depends on how often you fly, with corporate membership costing less than individual membership.

And remember too that airline lounges are not created equal. At the premium lounge end are the rarefied spaces for first-class passengers, with sitting areas, napping areas, à la carte dining and highly personalised service that includes pressing your clothes.

There’s a broad variation between airline lounges in the quality of just about everything – décor, amenities, services, food and beverages, so it pays to read the reviews on sites such as Lounge Buddy beforehand. I’ve visited some great pay-as-you-enter lounges around the world and a few that were too busy and didn’t offer much by way of amenities.

But most have been well worth it and with 3,000 airport lounges around the world, you might want to consider visiting one next time you fly.

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Petra ONeill
After growing up in Australia's outback she enjoys visiting remote destinations in Australia for the wildlife, vast open spaces and brilliant night sky and travelling overseas to exotic destinations to experience different cultures. Her bag is always packed and ready for the next trip

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